As temperatures continue to drop, the importance of the “Shop with a Cop” program continues to rise. The need for the program was never more evident than on Dec. 6 when 65 children participated in the program at Noblesville’s Meijer store, 17000 Mercantile Blvd.
“We spend at least $150 on winter coats, boots, hats, things that keep them warm during the winter and then they get to pick out a toy,” said Noblesville Police Officer Jon Williams, who has coordinated the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 198’s “Shop with a Cop” program all of its 16-year history. “It’s one of the events we look forward to every year as a lodge.”
With the recent national news shining a spotlight on cops, officials said this was a chance to show a different side of Noblesville officers.
“It gives the families an opportunity to work with us when it’s not a negative situation. They come and meet us and we get to know each other on a more personel level,” said F.O.P. Lodge President Mike Sadler. “With so much bad news about law enforcement, this shows our law enforcement is able to work with the community. We don’t have the problems other jurisdictions have.”
Williams said the “Shop with a Cop” participants – infants to 16-year-olds – come from a holiday assistance list given to the Noblesville F.O.P. by Nancy Chance of Good Samaritan Network.
“A significant segment of the middle class is struggling right now,” Williams said. “It just seems like every year there are more and more people in need. There is a greater and greater need in Hamilton County.”
Williams said the worst he feels is letting Chance know about those he cannot help.
“I had to turn back 65 families because we filled all of our slots,” he said.
The guilt Williams feels is replaced with happiness when he meets and interacts with the families at the event.
“Since I communicate with the families, I get a sense of how really grateful they are,” he said. “One family went around and hugged every single officer. You just knew it made his month.”
The event is not just for officers as most bring their spouses and children to assist with shopping.
“I’m grateful we have the opportunity to teach our children the importance of helping their community,” Kelly Williams said.
Sylvia Williams, 17, has been accompanying her father since she was 4 or 5 and has assisted shoppers for the past five years.
“I get to see how other people live,” she said. “It definitely makes me more grateful for what I have. I like helping people get what they need. They are always so grateful and smiling.”
Williams said those interested in making a donation can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail the donation to: Noblesville F.O.P. Lodge No. 198, P.O. Box 1303, Noblesville, 46061.
“We are grateful we have some very generous donors who continue to allow us to do this,” Williams said.